Caught between two worlds – The Film Fatales examine one woman’s unique story.
Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Matthew Goode, Emily Watson, Tom Wilkinson,
Miranda Richardson, Tom Felton, Sam Reid.
Directed by Amma Assante
An illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral is raised by her aristocratic great-uncle. (IMDb)
Everything about Belle, Amma Assante’s romantic and political period piece, is mesmerizing. It must be stated, however, that a tremendous amount of artistic license was taken with respect to the script. It is not historically accurate, except on the vaguest of levels. Nonetheless, this film doesn’t lack merit because it alters events to tell a compelling story.
Belle (Mbatha-Raw) is caught between two very different worlds, as a mixed race woman who is placed under the guardianship of her great uncle, England’s Lord Chief Justice/Lord Mansfield (Wilkinson). Belle floats between the strata of the Mansfield household – too noble to mix with the service staff, yet not noble enough to be considered on equal footing with the family whose blood runs through her veins. And this is Belle’s central struggle: where does she fit in? And, to whom can she possibly relate her unique struggle?
Her father’s last will and testament bequeathed Belle the independence of a modest fortune. Despite the looming threat of opportunists, Belle looks obligation and societal tradition in the face to make a brave decision concerning her fate and her heart. Duty, loyalty and love lead her to effect change at a time when England’s position regarding slavery was changing. Her partnership with John Davinier (Reid), a fledgling barrister, leads to uncover the truth behind a watershed legal case that will eventually lay the groundwork to abolish slavery. And, in John Davinier she finds her equal…in every sense of the word.
There are some moments in this film that will stay with you, namely the carriage scene in which Davinier makes an impassioned declaration of love for Belle in the presence of her great uncle; and, the mirror scene when Belle comes to grips with the fact that her sheltered family life didn’t prepare her for the cruelty of so-called genteel society. Mbatha-Raw’s performance is remarkable and we suspect this role will lead to bigger and better things. Reid is a positively swoon-worthy hero who deserves more roles.
This movie will easily become one of those classic period pieces ranked right up there with the very best. Putting aside the fact that Belle’s real story differs in many ways, it is still a very enjoyable movie and a must-see. Put it on your list!
The Film Fatales give Belle:
The Film Fatales are two acid-tongued, sassy broads who rant and rave about the best and worst of modern and classic cinema. Elizabeth Cassidy is an artist, creativity coach for artists and writers, an award-winning blogger and the fifth Beatle. To know Elizabeth is to be slightly afraid of her. Avid blogger and smart-arse, Nicole Dauenhauer is an advertising copywriter by day and an aspiring fiction/non-fiction writer by night. She’s an incorrigible Anglophile whose inner voice speaks in a British accent and prefers her Earl Grey with milk and sugar – not lemon.